No creative title here, just BUY SKULLGIRLS.

When it comes to video games I’m pretty open to trying anything, but my favorites are definitely RPGs and fighting games. RPGs are my preferred genre for going all hikikomori and ignoring friends for days at a time, while fighting games are where all my competitive hype goes to. I like them all, though I’m more inclined to 2D-fighters, especially Capcom ones. I’ve played since World Warrior released on coin-op; I remember being younger and often missing school bus rides because of a Street Fighter cabinet aptly situated in small shops near the bus stop. So when it comes to fighters, I’ve a pretty good idea of what I like and don’t like.

And trust me, when Skullgirls was announced all those years ago, I didn’t think anything of it. Even when it was fully playable last year, with fighting game veterans giving it thumbs up, I still remained skeptical. An indie fighting game trying to poke its way into an extremely saturated market? It sounded preposterous. Not to mention that the art style was definitely something that didn’t appeal to me. No 3D models here — purely hand-drawn 2D game. But get this, it’s not in an anime-ish style. So basically what I was looking at for the past year or so were screencaps, profiles and concept art of characters that seemed to belong more in a Saturday morning cartoon show from the mid-90s, not a fighting game.

Being a bit jaded with Street Fighter X Tekken and resigning myself to the fact that I actually shelled out full price for the underwhelming crossover, I thought it would only be fair to give Mike Z (the design head and a legend in the FGC) the benefit of the doubt and shell out the paltry $15 for this downloadable title.

I am profoundly impressed. I seriously cannot find the right words to describe how impressed I am with Skullgirls. The art, which I disregarded for months, is absolutely stunning in motion — bright, colorful, quirky, and a style all its own. This is what every 2D fighter should look like. The detail of the sprites is awesome, especially considering that these are fully hand-drawn without any 3D model traceovers (BlazBlue).

The soundtrack by Yamane Michiru (Castlevania series) is wildly appropriate and evokes that ‘blockbuster movie’ feel that is at the core of the game’s style and design. The jazzy tones are definitely an homage to Marvel 2, but I thought it was pretty interesting to hear Yamane’s take on this style, especially with all the Castlevania I’ve been hearing from her lately. I also really like the sound effects themselves; there’s nothing like the bone-shattering tones that result from a well-timed HP — it’s hype. Character voiceovers are also a treat (Peacock steals the show for this one with her Tex Avery-inspired character design), and headed by a personal favorite of mine, CristiVee (who I’ve spoken about at length before). Since it’s a fully ‘western’-developed game, I can finally enjoy English voices that don’t sound awkward when matched to a blatantly Japanese character lineup.

But at the heart of everything is the core gameplay. It’s a slick engine very reminiscent of Marvel 2, though without the apparent broken mechanics. It draws a few elements from other respected games — players can select one, two, or three characters to a team (similar to the ratio system from Capcom vs. SNK 2), while allowing for dialup combos as in Magic Series games. DHCs are available, and throws are given with a button command (LP+LK).

One of the small things that really adds a lot of depth to building teams is the ability to customize your assists. While games in the Marvel series have certain attacks preset for characters, Skullgirls allows you to ‘record’ a move at the character select screen for each girl on your team. So if you want the assist to be a simple s.LP, you can have it — or you could have that invincible DP or (get this) a throw. It really does open up a lot of options, and it’ll be interesting to see how different assists will benefit certain teams.

I’ve played a lot online, and though there aren’t any real lobbies yet, the netcode is fantastic. It uses the tried and tested GGPO rollback netcode, and with a large percentage of my matches (with pings roughly 70 or lower), the experience is practically lagless. With a good connection, I’ve never felt like I dropped anything due to lag, though obviously there are some unavoidably bad connections.

My only reservation about the game at this point is small character cast. Although most people are playing one or two-girl teams at the moment (I’ll chalk it up to general unfamiliarity with the cast), I think that we’ll start seeing a lot more people playing three-girl teams in the future. At that point, with only eight characters on the roster, it could get a little drab seeing the same ones over and over, especially if one or two characters are tossed to the tier-dumpster later on. At least two DLC characters are on the way, so I’m looking forward to that.

Long story short … buy Skullgirls. The game is only $15. I’ve probably already clocked as much time in this game as Street Fighter X Tekken, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be stopping.

If anyone wants to get a set going on Live, throw me a message at CiddypooI run Filia / Parasoul at the moment, but I’m looking to add Double, Cerebella or Valentine eventually.

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